Philipp Ager, Leah Boustan, Katherine Eriksson, 01 June 2019

One striking feature of many underdeveloped societies is that economic power is concentrated in the hands of very small powerful elites. This column explores why some elites show remarkable persistence, even after major economic disruptions, using the American Civil War’s effect on the Southern states. Analysis of census data shows that when the abolition of slavery threatened their economic status, Southern elites invested in their social networks, which helped them to recoup their losses fairly quickly.

Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Nathaniel Hendren, Maggie R. Jones, Sonya R. Porter, 06 November 2018

Economic mobility varies dramatically across the US. This column introduces a new interactive mapping tool that traces the roots of outcomes such as poverty and incarceration back to the neighbourhoods in which children grew up. Among the insights the data reveal are that children who grow up a few miles apart in families with comparable incomes have very different life outcomes, and that moving in early childhood to a neighbourhood with better outcomes can increase a child’s income by several thousands of dollars later in life.

Tom Krebs, Pravin Krishna, William Maloney, 22 September 2017

Research on economic mobility has failed to disentangle the underlying economic drivers. In particular, opportunities for upward movement represent welfare-enhancing mobility, while risky income shocks represent welfare-reducing mobility. This column presents a framework for differentiating between these factors, and applies the model to Mexican data. Results show that opportunity and risk are equally important drivers of income mobility, with large but opposing welfare effects. This challenges the idea that societies with higher measured income mobility are better.


CEPR Policy Research